Critical Discourse Analysis: Adding a Political Dimension to Inquiry

  • Debbie Laliberte Rudman


Within this chapter, which emphasizes a critical approach to discourse analysis, discourses are conceptualized as a form of social action that shapes how phenomena are understood within particular socio-historical contexts. In addition, I forward critical discourse analysis (CDA) as a methodological approach that can be taken up to add a genealogical dimension to work based in a transactional perspective. Through fostering a critical stance about taken-for-granted assumptions regarding what occupations are ideal, possible, and healthy for whom within particular contexts, CDA can contribute to work based in a transactional perspective by raising awareness of how possibilities for action are constructed within a particular situation and the ways in which such possibilities are constructed differentially for varying actors. I delineate key epistemological and methodological aspects of CDA, and use examples of CDA work relevant to the study of occupation to illustrate its potential contributions to occupational science. These illustrations, which emphasize how CDA work fosters a critical stance towards the “way things are,” show the vital contributions that can be made through such work that aims to open up spaces for different ways of researching, addressing, and enacting occupation.


Dominant Discourse Critical Discourse Analysis Critical Stance Discursive Construction Idealize Occupation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ainsworth, S., & Hardy, C. (2004a). Critical discourse analysis and identity: Why bother? Critical Discourse Studies, 1(2), 225–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ainsworth, S., & Hardy, C. (2004b). Discourse and identities. In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick, & L. Putnam (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organizational discourse (pp. 153–174). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ballinger, C., & Cheek, J. (2006). Discourse analysis in action: The construction of risk in a community day hospital. In L. Finlay & C. Ballinger (Eds.) Qualitative research for allied health professionals: Challenging choices, (pp. 200–217). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Carpenter, C., & Suto, M. (2008). Qualitative research for occupational and physical therapists: A practical guide. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Cheek, J. (2004). At the margins? Discourse analysis and qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 14, 1140–1150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cutchin, M. P., & Dickie, V. A. (2012). Transactionalism: Occupational science and the pragmatic attitude. In G. Whiteford & C. Hocking (Eds.), Critical perspectives on occupational science: Society, inclusion, participation (pp. 23–37). London: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Fairclough, N. (2009). A dialectical-relational approach to critical discourse analysis in social research. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (2nd ed., pp. 87–121). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Finlay, L. (2002). “Outing” the researcher: The provenance, process and practice of reflexivity. Qualitative Health Research, 12(4), 531–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical Inquiry, 8(4), 777–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Foucault, M. (1988). In L. D. Kritzman, L. D. Kritzman, & L. D. Kritzman (Eds.), Politics, philosophy, culture: Interviews and other writing 1977–1984. New York: Routledge/Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  11. Frank, G., & Polkinghorne, D. (2010). Qualitative research in occupational therapy: From the first to the second generation. OTJR: Occupation, participation and health, 30(2), 51–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. George, D., & Whitehouse, P. (2010). Dementia and mild cognitive impairment in social and cultural context. In D. Dannefer & C. Phillipson (Eds.), The Sage handbook of social gerontology (pp. 343–356). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grant, D., Hardy, C., Oswick, C., & Putnam, L. (2004). Organizational discourse: Exploring the field. In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick, & L. Putnam (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organizational discourse (pp. 1–36). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (1st ed., pp. 105–117). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Hacking, I. (1986). Making up people. In T. C. Heller et al. (Eds.), Reconstructing individualism (pp. 222–236). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hardy, C., & Phillips, N. (2004). Discourse and power. In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick, & L. Putnam (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organizational discourse (pp. 299–316). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jager, S., & Maier, F. (2009). Theoretical and methodological aspects of Foucauldian critical discourse analysis and dispositive analysis. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (2nd ed., pp. 87–121). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Katz, S. (2000). Busy bodies: Activity, aging and the management of everyday life. Journal of Aging Studies, 14, 135–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kendall, G., & Wickham, G. (2003). Using Foucault’s methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Kincheloe, J. L., & McLaren, P. (2005). Rethinking critical theory and qualitative research. In M. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 303–342). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Kronenberg, F., & Pollard, N. (2006). Political dimensions of occupation and the roles of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 60, 617–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Labonte, R., Polanyi, M., Muhajarine, N., McIntosh, T., & Williams, A. (2005). Beyond the divides. Towards critical population health research. Critical Public Health, 15(1), 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Laliberte Rudman, D. (2006). ‘Positive aging’ and its implications for occupational possibilities in later life. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73(3), 188–192.Google Scholar
  24. Laliberte Rudman, D. (2010). Occupational possibilities. Journal of Occupational Science, 17, 55–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Laliberte Rudman, D., & Molke, D. (2009). Forever productive: The discursive shaping of later life workers in contemporary Canadian media. Work, 32, 377–389.Google Scholar
  26. Lather, P. (2006). Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 33–59.Google Scholar
  27. Laws, G. (1996). ‘A shot of economic adrenalin’: Reconstructing ‘the elderly’ in the retiree-based economic development literature. Journal of Aging Studies, 10, 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lee, J., & Macdonald, D. (2010). ‘Are they just checking our obesity or what?’: The healthism discourse and rural young women. Sport, Education and Society, 15, 203–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. MacEachen, E., Polzer, J., & Clarke, J. (2008). ‘You are free to set your own hours’: Governing worker productivity and health through flexibility and resilience. Social Science & Medicine, 66, 1019–1033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McGrath, R. (2009). A discourse analysis of Australian local government recreation and sport plans provision for people with disabilities. Public Management Review, 11, 477–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mumby, D. K. (2004). Discourse, power and ideology: Unpacking the critical approach. In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick, & L. Putnam (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organizational discourse (pp. 237–258). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Parker, I. (1992). Discourse dynamics: Critical analysis for social and individual psychology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Potter, J., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology. Beyond attitudes and behavior. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Powell, J. L., Biggs, S. (2003). Foucauldian gerontology: A methodology for understanding aging. Electronic Journal of Sociology, 7(2). Accessed 4 Aug 2006.
  35. Sayer, A. (2009). Who’s afraid of critical social science? Current Sociology, 57(6), 767–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smith, J. L. (2007). Critical discourse analysis for nursing research. Nursing Inquiry, 14(1), 60–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stuhr, J. J. (2003). Pragmatism, postmodernism and the future of philosophy. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. van Dijk, T. (2009). Critical discourse studies: A sociocognitive approach. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (2nd ed., pp. 62–86). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  39. Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and methodology. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (2nd ed., pp. 1–33). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Occupational Therapy, and Occupational Science Field, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Graduate ProgramWestern UniversityLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations